Transition and Recovery to Performance Barefoot

“The Greatest TRANSITION your horse will ever make….will come from yougiving him the gift of living a NATURAL Barefoot LIFESTYLE … Lisa Huhn,
… after all …
“If you love something…set if free
If it comes back … it’s yours,
If it doesn’t … it never was”
The picture below shows how fast a horse is capeable of making a transition to barefoot and natural from shoes. He started his transition the day he got his shoes off and has lived out ever since. He was agressive in behavior to his handlers and other horses. He is a different horse today. Relaxed and happy out in his living space.
The 5 pictures show the horse in shoes, after taking shoes off, initial set up trim and before and after the second trim 25 days later.
There is noticeable improvement with the overall quality and health of his feet and his owner is riding him again. He never went sore … only experienced immediate relief!!
Don’t get discouraged reading the transition page. Know that there is hope for all horses … including yours.
Check out the Transition and Recovery Photos page for more pics of feet in transition
Barefoot horses are not a new commodity. The knowledge and conditions required to achieve a high performance bare hoof was written in the 4th century BC by Xenophon.
I believe that most to all lameness issues today have some connection to the foot … whether the vets and farriers see it or not. Lameness issues can be caused by shoeing and/or improper trimming techniques. Most likely in combination along with unsupportive living conditions or an unnatural lifestyle.
Good News!! You are not alone!
More and more people are taking their responsibility for the health and welfare of their horses to a new level and earnestly making the transition to barefoot and natural lifestyle, beginning their journey to the elusive sound horse … sound in mind, body and spirit.
There are shod feet, unshod feet and performance barefeet and a transition period can be expected in going from shoes or unshod to high performance barefeet.
There is usually some form of deformation present in a shod or otherwise ‘unsound’ hoof. The severity depends on a few different factors, such as how long the horse has worn shoes, overall conformation, amount of movement, supportive footing, living space, at what intervals he was reset or pasture trimmed, how young when first started wearing shoes, the diet, etc.
But there is hope to attain that elusive sound horse. With time, patience, understanding (and movement!!) … anything is possible!!
The horse’s foot is so incredibly adaptable and will respond in growth and strength to the way it is trimmed and how often.
Performance trimming is more like a pedicure than a trim. It’s about keeping the horse in a balanced and correct foot form … and getting him to use his feet.
Restoring Intended Hoof Function
During the time when the horse was shod or improperly trimmed and maintained, the feet have deformed in some way. Usually varying degrees of contraction are present.
What is contraction??
Lets start with what the dictionary says…
Contraction: The drawing up and thickening of a muscle fiber or a muscle in action … being contracted.
Contract: Implies a drawing together of surfaces or parts and a resultant decrease in size, bulk or extent: to shrink is to contract so as to be short of the normal or required length, amount, extent..etc..
The foot can contract in a few different ways…but you get the idea that contraction is not desirable!! It is so common that most people don’t recognize contraction when they are looking right at it. Most horses that are not performance trimmed have some amount of contraction.
The word contract implies that things are not normal and working properly … they can’t because everything is being ‘squished’ and pinched inward. It’s like having a huge ingrown toe nail! The feet are the life force of the horse. Many things can and do happen when the feet are compromised in their intended function.
With a contracted foot you are not able to see a noticeable expansion of the heels upon weight bearing. In order for a foot to heal it must have that function restored, and supported.
The pictures below show how the feet can contract differently. The first picture shows a narrow or oblong shape to the foot. The middle picture shows narrow frog and heel bulbs. This foot is a contracted foot in transition and has already gone through some changes.
Just for comparison, the third and final foot is NOT contracted


The circulation in contracted feet has most definitely been compromised to some point – in severe contraction, often to the point of deficient nerve function being.

The blood flow may have been restricted enough to have cells die or at the very least some damage at a cellular level. This damage and much more can be repaired through proper trimming andmovement! movement! movement!

The horse (as all living creatures) has an amazing capacity to heal itself. All we have to do is supply him with the medium to do so!!

The job of circulation in the body is ‘flushing’ toxins and damage out of the system. This may cause some initial perceived discomfort for the horse. It is the body cleansing itself and may last a couple days.

The horse’s entire system is compromised by shoeing, by unnatural hoof shape and by unnatural living conditions. This is just one reason – an important one – that makes movement during rehab or transition key! If the damage is mild, the system can easily absorb the damaged tissue. If the damage is more severe, the tissue may be ejected from the hoof the form of an abscess … natures way of cleansing excessive toxins out of the body.

If the horse is kept immobile (such as stalled … even overnight) proper healing cannot take place. Imagine the blood ‘pooling’ in the foot and legs. Metabolism is slowed, circulation reduced etc. The entire system is compromised. The more movement you can give your horse, the better off his entire system will be … and the shorter transition or recovery period.

Some horses may never experience a transition period when going from a ‘pasture trim’ to a high performance barefoot trim. And even some lameness or gait abnormalities, stiffness, and some behavioral disorders may immediately disappear with the horse moving off better and sounder than before. This has been our most common experience here at EQUINEXTION.

Be assured of one thing – by incorporating a more Natural Lifestyle and more movement for your horse, right here and now, you will have immediate benefits!! No reason to wait.





The picture above: There is one high performance barefoot horse and two barefoot horses in transition. Can you tell the difference?
The middle foot is the natural hoof … in winter. Notice the very large heel area. The heel area includes all the heel bulbs, back 1/3 of the frog as well as the hoof wall at the heel. It also includes the internal structures that you can’t see from the outside but you can make an educated guess as to wether they are full and robust or atrophied and not functioning properly.
The two feet on either side need to develop the heel area more (the entire heel area) and will continue to do so now that the feet are being maintained in the proper shape.
Notice the middle foot. The heel bulbs and frog make a heart shape !
So each foot does have a heart after all !
Succesful Transition to High Performance Barefoot horse

There are a few things to remember in this recovery or transition period. One is that this is a period of ‘transition‘/recovery. The time needed is dependant on many different factors … but there is a time frame to be expected.

A deformed hoof lacks strength and quality of horn. The underside of the foot is usually impacted with excessive growth of the sole, bars or frog – or most likely a combination of the three. The heels are usually long and/or underrun and have some degree of contraction present. The foot needs time and most importantly ‘movement’ along with proper shape and correct diet to develop the foot’s inherent strength and elasticity.

The rider/owner needs to make allowances for the horse to transition properly and fully. You must be dedicated to healing the horse, not looking for a quick fix. This time and dedication will pay off in many ways. Think of the prospect of having a wonderfully strong and healthy foot (that has the ability to practically maintain itself) under a sound and sane horse.

The feet go through some very dramatic and dynamic changes to reform to their natural shape and function … IF it is given the means to do so. The horse may or may not experience soreness or discomfort during the transition period. Either way, he is much better off. The alternative is having the damaging effects of shoes and/or unnatural lifestyle continue for years … possibly to the point of no return.

At EQUINEXTION, it has been our experience that most horses receive immediate relief from changing their lifestyle and trimming procedures.

The horse requires movement to stimulate the new growth and reshape the foot. He needsmovement to strengthen the overall structure of the foot and of his entire system. He needsmovement to pump the blood and cleanse out toxins. He needs movement to build his physical being which in turn feeds his spirit.

Movement releases endorphins and elevates mood Good spirits are essential for healing.

Remember the foot responds to the stimulus presented to it. And a foot can and will go through a complete cycle of rebuilding and healing when given the medium to so. We have seen complete chronic founder cases fully recover in less than one year.

This may require some initial hand walking of the horse by the owner/rider as well as coming up with innovative ways to keep the horse interested in moving. The owner/rider must be dedicated to the rehabilitation process!

Good luck to you and yours. We are always here to help.

Transition and Recovery Photos

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